I am not sure what’s more important—that the Lord is alive, guiding my life and yours or that sin has a pattern and understanding it can destroy temptation. I love having one up on the devil.
I was resigned to a pleasure-less day of unending paperwork, a schedule that committed me to more than I wanted, and an internal pressure to save the world that was producing no fruit. On occasion it gets dramatic, doesn’t it?
I looked up to talk to an 18 X 30 inch canvas image of Jesus in His Divine Mercy. I don’t remember what I said, but the sun came out just then and an idea came to me. I might get out of this terrible funk if I wrote. Two days later I has something to write.
A Cause of Blindness
It’s been weeks since I’ve dreamed, and I’m a dreamer. Today, three short vignettes strung themselves together telling a story that only a dream life might tell.
- First – Seeing my eye up close, I removed layer upon layer of contact lenses that I didn’t even know I had. I examined one. It was milky white, so I threw it away. How could anyone see through that?
- Second – On vacation with a group in a van, we stopped at a place where coincidentally I noticed my family’s car was parked. My desire to hop in and go home was strong, but this group’s demands pressured me.
- Third – A relative was tidying – keeping things sparse in the house and would no longer allow junk inside.
Then I woke up 5 minutes after my alarm was set to go off—if it were set. It would have been a shame to oversleep and miss the punch line in the two events that followed.
Sometimes God speaks to us in dreams. Does He do that with you? It’s even better when He follows up with the rest of the story in real life.
The Structure of David’s Downfall
Daily Mass 1/29/16. Father Marc Paveglio presiding. The first reading: 2 Samuel 11: 1-4a, 5-10a, 13-17
A summary of Father Marc’s homily through my ears and eyes: David was weakened. He was at war. In his kingdom, heads of households were being killed. His people were dwindling, his resources were down and perhaps he was, too. One evening, while out on a stroll on his rooftop, he saw a woman bathing. She was beautiful. Splendid. Tempting.
It was his curiosity that killed him. He could have shaken her from his mind, but he allowed himself a day of dreaming, what if… and he inquired about her. Then he chose to go against his conscience. He decided to take her even though she was married. She became pregnant. Next, the cover up and when that didn’t work, David ordered the murder of the woman’s husband. When all this sunk in, David, one chosen by God, sat in the consequences of his evil actions. The story made me squirm uncomfortably in my seat.
The Anatomy of a Sin
The beauty of Father Marc is he brings those squirm worthy readings alive—to the present day—to make sense in my life (and yours.) Here are six points he addressed in the structure of sin.
- Weakness – it begins with a vulnerability, a weakness, not when we are strong.
- Opportunity – next, temptation presents itself. This would be a good time to take action—to walk away from the situation—to avoid those people, places or circumstances that bring us to temptation. Eh?
- Curiosity – To begin to wonder in the mind is an open door to sin inviting the devil in, to entertain the thought of what if… allows temptation to grow out of control. Curiosity for me is the razor’s edge. On one side, there’s imaginings or thoughts that I push away. The other side, I engage in a full blown case of “what would that be like” and dive right in. I’m guilty.
- If I wonder what’s in that fancy house, how he got that position of prestige or why she can buy the latest iPhone every year, if I see and long to have those things that I cannot afford or those things that belong to a friend, it stirs in me greed and resentment.
- If I am curious about my neighbor with the intention of finding their faults to look down upon them, if my curiosity causes me to see them as having less value in my eyes or this curiosity leads me to my own lofty intention of disturbing their peace, then I sin.
- If I ask questions out of curiosity about matters that are not my business, but go there instead for the juicy gossip, I cross the line.
- Thoughts – It is not a sin to be tempted or to run into opportunity or to have thoughts of curiosity pop into my mind that I decide against. Everything can be stopped up to this point, but when I decide to do what I know I shouldn’t – even before I carry it out, I have taken action in my mind. I have chosen to do wrong. At this point, I can still be interrupted by something or someone before I take action, but I have already sinned.
- Actions – When I take action on what I know is wrong I’ve already hurt someone. This seems like the point of no return and the inclination to stuff it under the rug is strong. Instead, I can recognize I’ve done something wrong, stop and be truly sorry. It’s better than the cover up.
- Cover-up – It leads to more wrong. At some point, I will stop or someone will stop me. When I come to my senses, there’s the Divine Mercy of Jesus. It’s perhaps His best attribute, forgiveness—even when we screw up—even when it’s big, bad and ugly.
Oh! This was eye opening to me. This was the removal of those milky contact lenses. What was most enlightening was I can be tempted until the cows come home, but I don’t sin until I decided to do something I know I shouldn’t do. I love the freedom in boundaries.
Fruits before the Tree
I am as intrigued about the process of God’s guidance as I am about the message. Are the two not equally amazing? This is one way our invisible God makes Himself known and real to you and me. Like this.
This morning when I sat in my usual spot on the right hand side of the chapel, second row, second seat from the end, I had this amazing wide-awake feeling that my eyes had been opened, as if I had a deeper understanding of something, but what that was I didn’t yet know. It was before the reading/homily, but after the dream. Have you ever experienced the fruits before the tree was planted?
The dream of three seemingly unrelated events that told a story, a feeling that should have come after the understanding, and a reading/homily that connected to both… now that’s beyond anything that I am capable of. Divine inspiration. Divine coordination. Divine Appointment.
Those three vignettes from my dream, they were saying this: There was something I needed to see. It would help me when temptation is strong and it will help me keep my house tidy.
I don’t know what is better, that God is alive and present or that He provides solutions to problems like he lived next door. Here’s to having one up on the devil.
What about you?
How has God made himself known and real to you? Have you seen part of this pattern in your life? Can you remember a time when you’ve turned away from sin… or when you didn’t? I’d love to hear from you. Send me a note.
If you’d like to read more… These are recommended by Father Marc.